What Every Woman Needs to Know About Body Dysmorphic Disorder

woman looking in distorted mirrorRecently, Modern Family actor Reid Ewing confessed that he suffers from body dysmorphic disorder. Not familiar with BDD? It's a mental health disorder which causes you to obsess about your appearance -- and "obsess" is not an exaggeration.

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In a recent essay for The Huffington Post, Reid, the epitome of a handsome actor, admits to feeling so ugly that he first met with a cosmetic surgeon at age 19. What followed were YEARS of cheek and chin implants, injectable fillers, and fat transfers -- as well as periods of depression, hiding out in his house, and borrowing money from family to afford more procedures.

It's heartbreaking to read about his struggles, but unfortunately, BDD is not that uncommon. Just over 1 percent of the population may suffer from it -- and as many as 15 percent of people who visit a cosmetic surgeon. One study found that BDD was TWICE as common as obsessive-compulsive disorder.

BDD goes a lot deeper than thinking, "I wish my nose was smaller." People who have it may have few friends. They can have a tough time functioning at school or work because their BDD behaviors zap all their energy and focus.

It's no wonder that most people with BDD are also severely depressed.

More from The Stir: Jennifer Lawrence Jokes That She Has 'Reverse Body Dysmorphia'

The Stir asked Jenny Taitz, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York and the author of End Emotional Eating, to ID several common symptoms of BDD we should all be aware of:

You're spending up to hours each day on your appearance. And not beacuse you think you look great with your new haircut. Just the opposite. "[You're] painfully preoccupied with a perceived flaw," Taitz explains. "And engrossed in fixing what's wrong."

You have compulsive or repetitive behaviors around your appearance. Maybe you can't pass a reflective surface without looking in it. Perhaps you excessively exercise, fix your hair, or change your clothes -- anything that tries to hide or improve what you don't like about yourself (although it only makes you feel better for a short while.)

You keep trying to "fix" your looks. "And may be investing resources in possibly risky ways," adds Taitz.

Your social life is suffering. It's one thing to occasionally have a bad hair day, it's another to "have shame about a body part," Taitz says. If you're constantly avoiding friends and family, your quality of life is compromised, she says.

Recognize yourself in the above symptoms? Consider it a wakeup call, NOT a reason to panic.

BDD can be treated, says Taitz. "You can learn to see that your thoughts about your body are distorted and gain distance from those thoughts," she explains.

For instance, instead of thinking, "My nose is so deformed. Everyone's looking at me because of it," a therapist can help you get to the point where you recognize, "I'm having that thought again about my nose."

Trained therapists can also help you see your body more "holistically," says Taitz, instead of believing that your flaw = your self. And in some cases, antidepressants can help relieve symptoms along with therapy.

Taking that first step to admit you have a problem may feel terrifying. But doing so may give you the beautiful relief you've been craving.

 

Image © garymilner/iStock

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